What metal band has sold the most albums?

The question is very closely related to asking what rock band has sold the most albums. But the answers are actually different.

Further, to answer to which metal band has sold the most albums depends on how you categorize the bands themselves, and where you would draw the line between hard rock and heavy metal.

With that in mind, what artist would you guess has sold the most albums in metal music?

READ MORE: What Band Has the Most No. 1 Hits?

To find that out, let's look at the biggest hard rock and metal bands' sales numbers. From there, certainly we could determine which unequivocally "metal" artist has sold the most overall.

In today's digital age, however, measuring who has "sold" the most music is more complicated. When music only existed on vinyl, cassette or CD, sales counts were pretty cut and dried. But nowadays, because listeners don't traditionally "pay" for music. One has to assign a sales value to "occasions of listening" in streaming to be accurate.

Last year, writer Ryan J. Downey, host of the Speak N' Destroy Metallica podcast, found a recipe from ChartMasters.org and took the time to parse out the hard rock and metal artists in an installment of his "Stream N' Destroy" newsletter. What resulted is a list of the Top 25 best-selling hard rock and metal artists ever. (See the list below.)

What Metal Band Sold the Most Albums?

Looking at the list, the Top 5 shows you hard rock and metal music sales combined: Queen is No. 1 with 274.6 million albums sold; Pink Floyd is in second place with 235.8 million. Led Zeppelin comes in third at 205.6 million, and AC/DC is No. 4 with 198.6 million. Then we have Metallica at fifth on the list, with 163.6 million albums sold.

Historical identifiers notwithstanding, you'd be hard-pressed to find a heavy metal fan today who would refer to Queen, Pink Floyd, Zeppelin or AC/DC as "metal." Sure, they certainly contributed to the heavy metal that came after them. But, in essence, all four of those bands are hard rock. Right?

So, with that delineation as our guide, we can presume that Metallica is the metal band that has sold the most albums. Who'd expect any less?

The Answer Is Metallica

Therefore, unequivocally, Metallica is the metal band that has sold the most albums.

Metallica (Photo by Tim Saccenti)

After all, Metallica are one of the most iconic and influential heavy metal bands ever, and they have racked up numerous impressive sales feats in their career. That includes Metallica's 1991 "Black Album" being certified 16x Platinum by the RIAA, indicating sales of over 16 million copies in the U.S. And it has sold well over 30 million copies worldwide.

Add on all of Metallica's other albums and streaming numbers, and it's easy to see why Metallica are the metal band that has sold the most albums.

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Metallica, "Enter Sandman" (Music Video)

The Top 25 Best Selling Hard Rock + Metal Artists of All Time

These bands have been sold and streamed more than any other rockers. Sellouts!